Home » Family » Our BABY MAX was born!! (…and in the NICU for now)

Our BABY MAX was born!! (…and in the NICU for now)

Wow.  So much has happened in the past 11 days.

But the highlight of it all, is that our SWEET BABY MAX was born!  Yes, our 5th baby (and caboose of the family), has arrived!  But unfortunately, he’s still hanging out at the hospital.  We keep joking that he knew he had to make an entrance of some kind, to gather up as much attention as he could get, being the 5th child and all! ;)  If you follow along on Instagram, you already know this, but our sweet little bubs has been having a few issues with his lungs and heart and has been in the NICU since birth.  All of 11 days of it.

But, for those of you who have been cheering us along and have been asking what happened and how he’s doing, etc… are a few more details.

—> The quick version is that Max Emmett Johnston was born on April 30th, at 12:10 p.m., weighing in at 10 pounds even, and 23 inches long.  Yes, a nice big boy, who completely stole our hearts the minute he was born! :)

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Here’s the more detailed version.

Back in January, I shared that I was expecting our 5th baby at the end of April, and that he was a BOY.  And just like 3 out of the 4 previous pregnancies, I had a scheduled induction date to deliver this little guy.  If you have been reading for very long, you’ll know that I tend to grow LARGE babies (nope, not diabetic)…our biggest weighing in at 11 pounds (Chloe, #3)!  And nope, no c-sections.  My husband Steve is 6’5″ and I’m 5’11” so any hopes our children may have of being small, are very slim. ;)

On the day of our induction date, April 28th, all rooms were full, so we were bumped to the 29th……and then again to the 30th.  I don’t know why it’s hard for a pregnant lady to hear that she’s been bumped from her scheduled date, but holy smokes, don’t do that to a hormonal woman!! ;)  But once we got in, it finally started to feel real…..and the adrenaline was at full speed!  It almost felt like it was our very first baby all over again!

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Baby Max was head down but I think because I have an extra long torso, my babies don’t get into position like they should (which is also probably why I never dilate ahead of time).  So, Max was still kinda bobbling around in there, not engaging into position, even with the pitocin kicked up into high gear.  So labor was taking a very long time.  Once my water broke though, they could see that Max had a bowel movement, so they called the NICU to have some nurses ready to whisk him away, in case he had aspirated any of the meconium.  (Okay, am I sharing too much?  I’m still in the mode of “nothing is private” because my space has been more than invaded for the past few weeks. So, maybe my filter is a little tarnished.  If so, sorry for all the details. Ha!)

After 2 long hours of pushing, and trying to turn a posterior (face up) baby into the correct downward position each time a contraction would hit…..sweet baby Max was finally born!  My doctor let Steve help catch the baby as he was delivered, and then they both quickly passed him to me for about 3.2 seconds, before whisking him away to the NICU cart to check him out.  Those angel nurses got right to work, scanning him, giving him oxygen, and cleaning him up.

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And sure enough, his belly was full of meconium.  But the real issue is that little Max wasn’t breathing very well….and they could hear fluid in his lungs.

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Even though his breathing was labored, he still let the nurses know what he thought about all of this.  Especially that thermometer in his armpit.  (What’s with babies and those thermometers?!?!  Those things are painless compared to where they stuck that thing when we were kids.  Ha!)

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Then, they weighed him in at a whopping 10 pounds and 23 inches long, and a head circumference of 15 1/4 cm, (which is similar to Connor’s head size when he was a baby).  Apparently that’s a pretty big head….and the biggest this nurse had seen.  (Maybe that’s why it took 2 hours to push that sucker out!)

That’s when they told me that Max couldn’t stay with me….and would need to head over to the NICU right away.

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So, they gave me another minute or two to snuggle that little love bug and try to soak in all his sweetness…..and I tried so hard to quickly memorize all of his little features.  That’s when my heart broke just a bit, knowing they would take him away before I had enough time.  Oh, how I wanted to just sit there and hold him, so incredibly much.

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Steve followed Max and held him as much as he could, while I stayed in bed, trying to recover from my epidural.  I wasn’t allowed out of my bed until I could stand up…..and it was KILLING me to wait in that room for a few hours all alone!  I just wanted to get my hands on my baby!

Meanwhile, Max was hooked up to every machine possible….and was nicknamed “THE TODDLER” over in the NICU. Ha!

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After several hours, I was finally allowed to hold that sweet baby boy again.  So. Many. Emotions.

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And yes, even after 5 babies……it’s completely overwhelming to hold that brand new baby in your arms, knowing that you have been given full responsibility of this precious little gift.  A feeling I’ll always treasure.

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Max has no idea yet…..but he’ll soon figure out that he’s got a pretty fantastic daddy, who loves he and his siblings more than anything in this world.  (And to think how Steve used to be terrified of newborns and refused to hold them back when we were engaged.  Just look at you now babe! Ha!)

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And just like they had suspected (and after taking an xray), Max had indeed aspirated some meconium, which caused an infection in lungs.  He was also having trouble slowing down his breathing and needed oxygen to assist him.  They also put a tube down his throat to continue sucking out any more meconium from his belly.  So at this point, he was being fed calories through his IV….and wasn’t allowed to eat orally.

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Meanwhile, at home…..our kids were DYING to hold their new little brother.  However, we decided to not bring them in right away because there were a few runny noses in our house.  By about day 5 though, we brought them to the NICU, and let them come see baby Max, 2 at a time.  Ellie and Chloe got to see him first.  I think they were a little shocked at all the wires and funny tubes.

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But they warmed right up to him….and begged to hold him!  But we told them they needed to wait until he came home and told them they could touch his hair and talk to him all they wanted! :)

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Then, it was Connor and Oliver’s turn to come in and see Max.  They’re still pretty thrilled that there are now more boys in our family!  I’m pretty sure Connor tried to give Max a fist bump, to welcome him to the team! :)

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And yep, same rule….only touch the hair! ;)

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I think Oliver is the most confused by all of this and still has no clue that we’re actually bringing this kid home to our house one of these days.  But he did like pointing out all of Max’s facial features to us. Ha!

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At this point (day 5 in the NICU), the neonatologist just let us know that it was up to Max how soon he’d be coming home.  He still had an infection in his lungs that he needed to fight off…..but he also had to regulate his breathing, because his respiratory rate was way too fast.  And because of that, he still couldn’t eat through his mouth, in fear of him aspirating again.  So my milk was being pumped in through that tube through his nose.

Life has been an absolute blur since Max was born, but during the first week, I spent most of the day with Max while Steve went to work, and my mom helped out (a ton!) at home, keeping my bigger kids alive and loved! :)

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After about 8 days in the NICU, Max’s breathing finally slowed down enough with the oxygen, to drink from a bottle.  Yay!!

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Then, only another day after that and he was finally weaned off the oxygen because his lungs decided to kick it into gear!  And then because he started eating really well and was taking the full amount of milk via a bottle, they took the feeding tube out of his nose.  And then finally…..this big boy started to learn how to nurse.  Oh my goodness, that has been a process of building muscle for Max (and patience on my end) but we are working on that one together. :)

And just when we thought he was pretty much in the clear and we thought we were just waiting for him to maintain strength while off all of the machines and monitors…..they discovered that Max has a heart murmur.  So they did an ECHO and sent it off to cardiology.

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Meanwhile, Max had a weird episode in the middle of the night, right after I nursed him….and his heart rate skyrocketed to over 300 beats per minute.  All of the sudden, the monitors started blazing and the room quickly filled with nurses and doctors.  They started gagging Max with a bulb syringe to help reset him (sounds strange, I know) and while that wasn’t working, the doctor yelled to the nurses to grab some ice.  While she sprinted away to grab a bag of ice, he grabbed a tube and started shoving it down Max’s throat.  That sweet baby Max started gagging and then their attention all darted up to watch the montiros.  Apparently that did the trick and reset his heart rate.  All the doctors and staff told us this just sometimes happens and may never happen again.  We were hopeful this was the case.

However, 2 nights later… happened again, while he was just laying in bed.  So once again, the room filled up with medical staff, and lot of tension.  They were sprinting for ice and this time the nurse practitioner shoved his finger down his throat (because there wasn’t a tube handy)…..which did the trick and reset his heart rate again. That’s when we learned that Max may have SVT (Supraventricular Tachycardia).  So the doctors ordered an EKG of his little heart, to see if we could see more of what’s going on and if it had anything to do with his heart murmur.  (Apparently, the gagging causes increased blood pressure in the chest cavity and that’s what reset his heart rate.  The ice is another method they use to do the same thing, by pressing it against the face and kind of gagging them with it….but the shock of it helps reset the heart rate.  There’s still a lot I need to learn about how all of that works….but that’s the main idea.)

Anyway, the ECHO and the EKG have been read and analyzed by his pediatric cardiologist…..and thankfully, the hole in his heart should close on its own and the SVT (rapid heart rate) can be helped with an oral medication.  They gave us some instruction in case he has an episode at home but he shouldn’t while on this medicine.  (They’re also hoping he grows out of the SVT as well.)

Now, we’re just waiting to be cleared to go home.  Max has passed all of his tests, he breathes normally, his infection is gone, his heart rate is under control, he’s peeing/pooping, and he has been poked and prodded enough to last a life time.  We’re just praying that today is the day!  But even if it’s not, it won’t be too much longer!!!!

This kid is a champ.  And a fighter.  And through all of this, he has snuck his way so deeply into my heart.

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As for the NICU…..I’m so ready to leave (and sleep in my own bed again).  And we’re hoping today is the day!  I know many parents have had to go through similar (and even much longer and more severe) scenarios with their wee babes, and it’s really, really tough.  Leaving your baby in this big hospital while you drive away without them, is painful.  But I can’t believe how incredibly kind, attentive, and patient those nurses/doctors are in the NICU wing.  And I am convinced that NICU’s have more prayers floating heavenward than possibly any other location on this earth… I know Max has been surrounded by a whole lot of love while there.  And for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

So, for now, we’re hoping and praying we will be discharged.  And that Max will remain healthy.  And symptom free.  And that we can finally love on this sweet boy any ol’ time we want! :)

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**And oh my, if we stay here much longer, this whole bed situation isn’t going to work!  The NICU isn’t well equipped for big ol’ toddler babies! ;)


And again, to all of you who have sent messages, emails, texts, prayers, well wishes, etc…..thank you so very, very much.  We have felt so much love from so many people, I can’t even describe what that has done for us.  And for Max.

. . . .

Once things settle down, which I know they will, I’ll update you all again.  And then this blog will return back to the normal lighthearted fun and creative space that it usually is.  Because I miss it! :)  (However, my sweet and talented contributors will continue to post, just like they have been.  Man, I love the crew that we have here on this blog!)

Talk to you soon,



Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
Our baby max was born!! (…and in the nicu for now)
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  1. Kristen says:

    I know this is older but I had/have SVT not well managed on beta blockers. I eventually had two procedures (cardiac cath w/RFA) at age 14 and 15. I’m now 35 with six kids… he’s absolutely precious and I hope y’all are all doing well.

  2. Melissa says:

    Oh my goodness. This sounds so much like my oldest’s experience. Swallowing the meconium, lung infection, and the SVT. We had a couple SVT episodes at home and it was trial and error to find the right combination of medicines that worked. But he grew out of it and is a healthy and very active 7 year old. Max is adorable, he’ll figure it out and be home before you know it!

  3. Lynda Mortensen says:

    Awwww, Max is adorable! Congratulations to both of you and your family! I just popped in to your blog to look at instructions for possibly making a dress for our granddaughter and then saw this. I actually have SVT too! It was only diagnosed when I was about 17 and we were doing EKG’s in biology class and I was having an episode of my heart racing that was caught by accident on the EKG. All I knew before then was that sometimes my heart felt like it was racing out of control, but then those palpitations would make me start to cough automatically, and that coughing (similar to the doctors gagging Max) reset my heart rate within a couple of seconds. It has never caused me any trouble apart from about 3 years ago (before we bought your house in Colorado), when my cough reflex was a little slow and I started to black out. Further tests at the ER confirmed the SVT diagnosis of earlier, but I’ve now lived with it for almost 54 years with only that one time when my coughing started a little late. As a nurse myself, we are trained to get people to cough or to bear down as a first resort for these type of palpitations, for me, the cough reflex is absolutely automatic, it just happens. I am sure Max will be just fine and quite able to lead a normal life :). We are still absolutely loving the house, although I am in England visiting my Mum at the moment. Best wishes to everyone! Lynda Mortensen

  4. Shirley Clark says:

    Wow! You have had a lot going on. He is beautiful! Big babies are so filled out and seem so much older.
    My first was 2 weeks over, and she weighed 10 lbs 7 oz. The nurses told us then that big babies can have as many problems as preemies so they watched her carefully the first day.
    I’m so glad he’s doing better! Prayers for you all.

  5. Bek @ Just For Daisyb says:

    Oh my what a crazy few weeks. I’m so sorry that you are going through this… but what a wonderful strong boy Max is! I hope you’ve now made your way home and Max doesn’t experience any more problems xx Praying for some sweet bonding time and rest and peace for you all xx

  6. Lynette Ballard says:

    I chuckled when I read about your big 10 pounder in the nicu. He really would look like a big ol’ toddler in there. :) I hope that he is able to get home really really soon! And what a blessing in disguise to have the meconium problem so you could catch the heart rate sky rocketing at the hospital rather than at home for the first time! :)

  7. Aan Andes says:

    Congratulaions Ashley!! Big hugs to baby Max. You take care!

    Love from Malaysia.

  8. Emeline says:

    Congratulations! He will be better in a flash, I am sure. I am sending prayers from Brazil.

  9. Christine says:

    Congratulations! He is so cute and looks like his older siblings. Prayers for Max and your family and the doctors and nurses. We just had a baby too that is getting loved on constantly (while you were in the NICU) and hope you are able to be home snuggling your little guy very soon.

  10. Karen says:

    Love and prayers for sweet Max and all of your family!! I’ve been reading your blog for years and have loved watching your family grow! Prayers for some relaxing recovery time for all of you!!

  11. Sewing Made Simple says:

    Awww <3 He's such a cutie. What a lovely famiy you have Ashley! Hope you recover fast. Thank you for sharing this amazing experience to us.

  12. Natalie Smith says:

    He is too cute. I was so emotional reading this. Your family is beautiful and I am so happy things are better.

  13. Jennifer says:

    He is so adorable! I hope he gets everything figured out. It is hard work being born! And I hope you are doing okay. Congratulations!

  14. Cora Layton says:

    Congratulations Ashley! He is so beautiful and such a strong boy. I hope you get to bring him home soon and get some rest.

  15. Sara says:

    He’s perfect! I hope that everything is looking better and I’ve got my fingers crossed you’re all home or going home soon. I had a Max in April too! He was also 10 lbs even :).

  16. Doreen Fulton says:

    Such a lovely baby. I hope all goes well in the next few days so he can leave the NICU before he outgrows his bassinet, and gets to go home to his siblings and his big crib that is waiting for him.

  17. Gau bong Totoro says:

    Congrats to you two, Max is adorable <3

  18. Vava says:

    You are an amazing mother! Thank you for sharing ALL of the details. It reminds me of our oldest daughter’s birth, and I can say she is doing well now. So well, you’d never know it happened if you hadn’t been there to witness it. But you have recorded yours forever, shared these painful and wonderful moments with all of us, and I can’t thank you enough for your openness. I’m praying on behalf of Max, that he will recover fully and live a wonderful and happy life with his amazing family and his spectacular mother.

  19. Julie says:

    What an emotional 11 days indeed! Congratulations of your little treasure and my thoughts are with you.

  20. kendell says:

    Congratulations on the birth of your dear baby boy, and trusting and praying that all goes well for you and your family in the future.

  21. Irena says:

    God bless you all. Prayers for healing. Much love to you all

  22. Robyn says:

    I also had a ‘toddler baby’ who spent time in SCBU (special care baby unit, UK thing!).

    Adam was so big that when they were ready to take him out of his incubator and put him in a bassinet they rang me to bring him clothes because nothing there fit him!!

    So glad Max is nearly home (or maybe even home by now!) and he is gorgeous!

    Congratulations to all!!

  23. Maree says:

    Awww Baby Max! So adorable! All our prayers with you and your family. Can’t wait to hear about him again :)

  24. Annemaria Lee says:

    Prayers and love for you, your little fighter, Max and your whole family. What a beautiful baby and beautiful children. Look after yourself. Many blessings.

  25. fierdous says:

    Wishing your little fighter all of the best…he is a cutie our from Cape Town South Africa.

  26. Lisa Evans says:

    What a beautiful wee boy. Best wishes, Lisa

  27. Sharon Arnold says:

    Welcome to the family, Max! Sending up prayers for you all and especially Max. God Bless you all!

  28. Regina Roza says:

    God Bless you all! Welcome to the world Baby Max!!

  29. Megan Isbell says:

    Thank you for sharing your story! My daughter had some issues at birth too (not nearly as severe as your little guy though!) and I wasn’t able to be with her much for a couple of days. It was so hard. Your son sounds like a fighter though and I’m glad things are looking up. You told your story so beautifully. NICU staff are amazing! I hope you guys are home soon!

  30. Shelley says:

    I am so happy for you and your family. A few years back I did the walk with my daughter and son in law as we left the hospital without their little girl. I didn’t think I would make it out of the hospital but they were so strong. It is a walk I hope to never repeat. I am grateful for medical personale and all the care and love they give to moms and dads who need their love and support. Enjoy little Max.

  31. Sue says:

    Hugs and prayers for all your family and little (?!) Max.

  32. Karen Lee says:

    Wow! Best wishes to you and your family. Good job, momma! Good job, daddy!

  33. Kim N says:

    I’ve been praying for a safe and healthy delivery for you and Max this past week because of the delay, and will continue to pray! What a beautiful baby boy he is!

  34. Cindy says:

    Max is adorable! My little boy (just turned 6) was born with a heart murmur and SVT too. It is so stressful I know. He was on an oral medication for a year. But he is doing good now. Hang in there! Sending lots of love and prayers!

  35. Jen Hayes says:

    What a handsome little guy. The NICU truly can be rough, and yes, filled with angelic nurses/doctors and babies. One of our worst and best experiences. Hoping that Max can come home soon. My prayers are with you.

  36. Triantafyllenia says:

    You had such a hard time!!! You touched my heart, you all are really brave! I wish everything goes wonderful from now on.

  37. Jeanne says:

    Congratulations on your beautiful Max. Sending hugs and prayers for all of you.

  38. Robbie Reeder says:

    Breath taking to see how strong max is, his sisters and brothers love him, Thank you for sharing your birthing of Max with us. As I read your story I think my heart beat raised some too I kept saying common Max you can do this get better buddy.

  39. Mary says:

    Congratulations on your beautiful baby boy, Max. One of my grand daughters was in the NIU for 8 weeks and the staff was amazing. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that your little one is surrounded by such caring people. Prayers for you and your family.

  40. Chris says:

    Prayers from Kentucky are continuing. Blessing to you and yours.

  41. Lorena says:

    huGS AND PRAYERS TO YOU AND YOUR FAMILY! What a beautiful baby boy, hoping that all goes smooth and that your family is all at home real soon.

  42. Monica says:

    Congratulations on the birth of your precious little boy! What a bundle of joy! I think he looks so much like Chloe and Olive and what a cute name too! I have loved all your name choices!

    I remember how overwhelming all those wires and alarms were when our daughter was in the NICU. It was so incredibly hard leaving that hospital and knowing you can’t bring your baby home yet and the many hours spent just staring into the incubator watching my sleeping baby. It is a scary draining experience and you captured it in your story. Everything for that time period was a blur from being in “survival mode” and keeping my self together emotionally. I am glad he is on his way to getting to go home and that you will soon be cuddling that bundle whenever you want for as long as you want in a relatively “quiet” space (no more beeping and screening alarms).


  43. Auntiepatch says:

    Blessings on you and your family!

  44. Jennifer says:

    Beautiful, beautiful baby boy!! Will be praying that all remains calm and Max remains healthy:)

  45. Genevieve C says:

    May the Good Lord keep you & may His Face shine upon your whole family. Many more prayers for your family.

  46. susan hatfield says:

    So happy for your family! I had a 12 lb boy naturally without anethesia and we had to stay for 11 days also. My son had to have all his blood taken out and cleaned and put back in and he was jaundiced. He’s 40 this year and 6ft 5 inches! Lots of prayers through the lives of all of our four kids. Have fun with your five. They are gifts from God!

  47. Prislee says:

    Congratulations!!! God Bless you, your family and all the hospital staff taking care of those precious little babies.

  48. Casey says:

    Prayers to Max and your family. Thank you for sharing

  49. Susan says:

    Love and prayers to your family. Congrats for a beautiful baby boy!

  50. Lisa // Cucicucicoo: Eco Sewing and Crafting says:

    Oh my goodness, what a story! But congratulations on your sweet boy and I wish you lots of lucky for a speedy and – most importantly – HEALTHY return home!

  51. Cindy says:

    Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby boy. I pray he will be home with you soon, and that he will get and stay healthy.

  52. Brneda May says:

    You don’t know me this is my first comment I subscribe to your web site and watch it faithfully! I wanted to tell you that I am praying for Max and the four other kids and mom and Dad. I am so thankful he will be home for mothers day! I will continue my prayers ! You are such a blessing and do wonderful work!

  53. Denise S Reed says:

    Hope your little guy will be alright. Hope they will be sending him home on a apnea/heart monitor, or whatever the equivalent of that machine is now. It will give you a little piece of mind as the blinking green lights show their breathing and heart rates. If either gets too fast or not fast enough, it will start beeping. After I lost my first child, a 6 week premie to crib death (SIDS) at 6 months old, I don’t think I would have slept without the monitor.

    I wish you and your family all the best with “little” Max.

  54. Julie Hawk says:

    Continued prayers for you all!!! He is absolutely precious!!! So glad for the update and look forward to more!!!

  55. Kathy Gamso-Pozivilko says:

    Saying prayers for Max, the rest of the family, and the docs and nurses of the NICU. Your are a wonderful mom!

  56. tiffany says:

    I’m praying for all of you and for rapid healing of all issues for sweet Max. :)

  57. NanaJill says:

    Little Max is soooo adorable! Congratulations on bringing yet another miracle to the world! I experienced similar (but on a much much larger scale – open heart surgery at 3 days, a pacemaker, etc.) thing with our little boy #4. I’ll spare you the details, but he developed SVT and just outside a year, he did outgrow it. And, if it gives you any hope, he will be turning 29 next month and has never had any heart problems since that first few years! Medications are so much better now; treatments are much more advanced; and experience has taught these pediatric cardiologists to handle these types of things so much more efficiently. You’re little Max sounds like he is in good care and has a great family to help him through this first little “speed bump.’ We’ll keep you all in our prayers.

    P.S. Learn infant CPR – you won’t need to use it, but it will give you tremendous peace of mind knowing that you know how to do it!

  58. Kelly D says:


    Praying for you, your family and esp for sweet baby Max and those who are helping you take care of him!!!!!!


  59. Tamara says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for sharing. It looks like your children especially the boys are really going to enjoy having another little brother:)
    God Bless you and your family.
    Happy Mothers Day

  60. Crystal says:

    I’m glad he is doing and about ready to home. The NICU is somewhere you never want to be, but the doctors and nurses there are amazing.

  61. Becky says:

    So happy that things are finally looking up. Prayers that all will be perfect from here in out.

  62. Stacey Stowell says:

    I’m happy they were able to figure out why his heart was going so fast! So glad there is medicine for it! Hugs to you and your family and I hope today is the day Max can come home!! Seriousy, if you need anything, I’m not far away and I can be there super fast!

  63. Grandpa Rob says:

    We love you all so much and prayers are steadily ascending!❤️

  64. Maria D. says:

    Wow…you’ve had a very busy and emotionally exhausting 11 days. Thank you so much for sharing your story – Max is a cutie and I know you are anxious to bring him home.

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Hi, I'm Ashley

Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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